Lily Singh is one of The Advocate's Women of the Year. View the full list from the current issue of the magazine.
“It is so important to see people on screen where you feel, That’s me, I’m seeing myself. It’s a feeling you can’t even describe,” Lilly Singh recently told actress Stephanie Beatriz on the former’s late-night NBC talk show, A Little Late With Lilly Singh. Singh, who is bisexual, was discussing Beatriz’s bisexual Brooklyn Nine-Nine character. Beatriz is also bi.
It was an astonishing thing to behold — two women of color, Beatriz being Latinx and Singh a Canadian woman born to Indian parents, sharing their coming-out journeys and the importance of representation. Beatriz couldn’t help but give props to Singh, who was carving a niche as one of the few women in late-night TV.
“In this space, in particular, nobody’s been here before. You’re the first like you. That’s a miraculous thing,” Beatriz said, inspiring Singh to stand up and embrace her.
Before Singh launched her show late last year, network late-night TV wasn’t exactly diverse. Outliers like Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee exist on cable, but Singh, 31, is the only woman, and certainly the only queer person, to break into the networks’ straight white boys’ club with personalities like Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O’Brien.
Her hiring to host the super late-night show may not be as risky as it appears. Before joining NBC, Singh was one of YouTube’s most successful vloggers, pulling in millions of viewers and dollars with lighthearted videos of her life that typically include dances and songs commenting on Indian stereotypes. She parlayed YouTube fame — where she branded herself “Superwoman” — into successful tours, documentaries, roles in film, and sponsorship deals.
LGBTQ people have long been early adopters of technology and YouTube. Stars like Tyler Oakley and Hannah Hart have parlayed an online presence into fame and fortune. But Singh’s ability to cross over to a 20th-century medium is revolutionary, especially for a queer woman of color.
The pressure and expectations are real, but as Singh told The Hollywood Reporter, “I’m going to do what I’ve always done, which is make something that I think is good, that is authentic to me. That’s what has gotten me success thus far.”